Common Breast Concerns
Most women, at some point in their lives, will visit their primary care doctor with a breast concern. Although breast issues can present in many different ways, some of the more common problems women may encounter are discussed here. For example, most breast lumps turn out to be normal breast tissue consisting of fibrous and fatty tissue, which can feel lumpier at different times of the menstrual cycle and with weight fluctuation.
Breast Lumps & Cysts
Cysts tend to worsen as you approach menopause, mainly if your menstrual cycles are irregular. Fortunately, after menopause, when the ovaries eventually stop hormone production, fibrocystic disease usually becomes less evident, and the breasts will become easier to examine. They may remain cystic, however, if certain medications prescribed by your doctor continue to be taken. In addition, if you are on estrogen replacement therapy, the cysts may return. Therefore, follow-up with your doctor is important if you have symptoms of persistent or new lumps.
Fibrocystic disease is most likely to occur between the ages of 40-50, but can occur at any age. Discontinuing coffee, tea, cola and chocolate can sometimes help lumps to decrease in size and reduce tenderness. Although caffeine should be stopped for at least two months to be fully effective, improvement in breast pain and lumps may happen sooner. Stopping caffeine may not get rid of fibrocystic disease, but it will likely reduce some of the breast discomfort. Other factors which may be associated with cysts are irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal therapy, soy products and increased stress.
Breast Pain & Discomfort
Most women feel some breast discomfort with their menstrual cycle. This is because the hormones (estrogen and progesterone) stimulate the glandular breast tissue. This may cause a small fluid accumulation in the tissue and can cause the breast tissue to be more lumpy and uncomfortable or even painful. Irregular menses are commonly associated with breast pain and swelling.
A lump can be caused by a fibroadenoma, which is a benign mass of the breast tissue and is more common in women under the age of 30. Fibroadenomas are common non cancerous tumors of the breast. Fibroadenomas are usually monitored by breast ultrasound in young women to establish that they remain stable over time or with mammography for women at the appropriate age for a yearly routine mammogram screening. If a fibroadenoma enlarges significantly or causes symptoms such as pain, surgery may be performed to remove it.
This page is intended as an educational resource only. It is not a substitute for professional care.
Please see your physician if you have any concerns about your health.